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Recently, AmCham China’s Young Professionals Committee held an executive lunch featuring Jones Lange Lasalle Executive Director Eric Hirsch to explore personal development and the intricacies of navigating career opportunities in China. Hirsch, a four-time member of AmCham China’s Board of Governors, is a long-time believer in giving back to his community and the benefit of face-to-face dialogue. As such, this lunch with some of Beijing’s leaders of tomorrow was a perfect opportunity to pay it forward and benefit from an afternoon of thought-provoking discussion.

As the Executive Director of a Fortune 500 professional commercial property services company with more than 14,000 employees in 14 offices across China, Hirsch leads business strategy and development for the Beijing office market, driving international best practices for the firm. Having moved to Beijing in 2004, Hirsch provided a wealth of information, experience, and career guidance for the YPC members, indulging the troupe in an in-depth Q&A session that kept a lively pace into the afternoon.

Assembling at AmCham China’s headquarters, 15 Young Professional Committee members and Hirsch converged for a productive lunch to share resources and best practices for success and career development, in addition to a great opportunity to expand their networks, become more involved with AmCham China, and get to know peers in the expatriate business community.

To open the afternoon’s session, Young Professionals Committee Chair Abe Sorack asked Hirsch what has allowed for his staying power over the years despite being a digital immigrant (opposite of digital native). Hirsch quickly replied that, no matter when you were born, your greatest piece of tech is your brain. Hirsch went on to state, “Tech is only as good as the person using it. You need an agile mind, flexibility, and the ability to jump from one task to the next and back again.” Hirsch later said, “I always figured – especially in my line of work where you have to shift often – that I have to be firing on all cylinders, I can’t just focus on one thing. For this, you need inner peace but also mental agility to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.” Hirsch further warned that oftentimes technology can be a hinderance. “Today, we’re more dependent on technology and less self-reliant on our own abilities – you should never give up your belief in your abilities,” says Hirsch.

Next, Hirsch was asked how a young professional should deal with Beijing’s magnitude, and the likelihood that the location where you work might be very different than where you want to live and socialize. “Where you are is more about your state of mind,” says Hirsch. “When I first came to Beijing, I was told anything outside of the third ring was countryside. But the city is constantly growing – especially with the moratorium on new construction inside the fourth ring, it will continue to grow outwards. It’s just a large city so things are going to spread. Today your office area might be in the boondocks; tomorrow it might be the new CBD.”

Hirsch was then asked what he thought of the new trend in open office plans that seems to be sweeping the corporate world. “Research shows that young people like open spaces,” Hirsch explained, “but as individuals we always need some quiet time throughout the day. It will take time for the open office plan to be adopted. There is always a pendulum swing, but humans are great at adjusting so if you need quiet time you can find it. I frequently go for walks because, for many of my clients, it’s a reminder I still exist, and it allows me to get my mind off of what’s on the screen and think things through clearly. I constantly create separate time for myself. This is one of my keys to productivity and continued success.”

The Young Professionals Committee would like to thank Eric Hirsch for taking the time to come speak to our community and for his continued involvement and work on behalf of AmCham China. For more information about the YPC’s next event, joining the YPC, or to be added to the YPC WeChat group or mailing list, email jpapolos@amchamchina.org.